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Pixar Gives Nod To Past At Future-Looking SIGGRAPH

For their night at the uber-progressive SIGGRAPH, Pixar Studios honored the past, showing legendary animator Frederic Back's THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES and honored their own past with documentary THE PIXAR STORY.

Introduced by John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, and Acme Filmworks Executive Producer and AWN co-founder Ron Diamond, Back got a standing ovation at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles Tuesday evening. "I haven't met a filmmaker who has inspired me as much as Frederick Back," Lasseter said. "Beyond the amazing animation, it's the heart of the story. It's one of the most inspirational films for me." TREES, the animation short Oscar winner in 1987, tells the story of one shepherd's long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps near Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Back, now 84, said in his comments Tuesday the story made him cry the first time he heard it, knowing he had to bring it to life. "Animation is a wonderful art, but it also can bring ideas to people," he said. Diamond noted that Back has himself planted 30,000 trees, inspired by the story.

In contrast to TREES' old-fashioned and painstaking colored pencil-on-frosted-cel animation, THE PIXAR STORY tells the tale of one of the most progressive studios in the world. Filmed from 2002 to 2007 by Disney pioneering animator Ub Iwerks' granddaughter Leslie Iwerks, the documentary explores the parallels between the advent of Pixar and the start of Disney's empire in the 1920s.

"We interviewed about 100 people," Iwerks said. "It was wonderful to go back in time to see how these filmmakers were trying to make this technology believable and to follow their journey. It reminded me a lot of seeing my grandfather's art on STEAMBOAT WILLIE, seeing the passion and the rawness behind it. I saw John at the computer doing the same thing."

Back's artwork will be on display at the Linwood Dunn Theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sicenes at 1313 Vine Street in Los Angeles through November 1. "Frederic Back: A Life's Drawings" will showcase drawings, illustrations and sketches created by Back using colored pencils on frosted cels as well as spotlight his commitment to environmental issues.

"A Life's Drawings" will have special viewing hours on August 10, from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The exhibition will be open to the public through November 1 on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m., and whenever Academy public programs are hosted at the Dunn Theater. Admission is free.

"Frederic Back: A Life's Drawings" is presented with the support of the governments of Quebec and Canada, Societe Radio-Canada, Pixar Animation Studios and SIGGRAPH.

--By AWN News Editor Annemarie Moody